I'm sure for many a book with the sub-title of "A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology" doesn't get many people excited but for me, anything that helps clearly and concisely communication core doctrine does. The Christian faith has this fascinating nature of being both immensely simple, so that a child can grasp the core of it, and yet also extremely deep and rich in that one can spend their whole life studying it and still be amazed by new insights. When it comes to books that delve into the depths or Christian doctrine, the trouble is many are either cover too little ground, usually by not exploring differing nuances on doctrines not universally agreed upon, or are simply too large and intimidating for the average reader. Alternately, larger volumes are simply broken up into multiple, more manageable volumes.
In this volume by Gregg Allison, I found a very good middle of the road approach to covering the core doctrines in a clear and concise way. The 50 chapters are grouped into 8 parts and follow an order common in many systematic theology texts. Each chapter beings with a short one or two sentence summary of the doctrine, followed by a short list of the main themes of the doctrine and a list of key scripture references. The bulk of each chapter is made up of the Understanding the Doctrine section which divided into three parts: Major Affirmations, Biblical Support; and Major Errors. I really appreciated this breakdown as the first part explains what the particular doctrine affirms and why it matters, the second part shows how we get to this understanding from scripture and the third where the misunderstanding or misapplying leads to error. The final sections of each chapter provide guidance in how to apply the doctrine to one's life and how to teach (including a less outline) the doctrine to others.
One thing I must commend this Allison for in this book is that he takes the time to acknowledge and explain differing view on some of the doctrines on which there are differences in various traditions. For example, the first chapter I flipped to in order to evaluate how narrow a view would be presented was chapter on "The Gifts of the Holy Spirit." In this chapter both the cessationist and continualist views are discussed. Further, in the Major Errors section he points out the errors of both over-emphasizing as well as under-emphasizing the gifts of the spirit. Even in the guidance for teaching this doctrine, he points out that an individual church's position is what should be emphasized but not without acknowledging and explaining the other side.
Finally each chapter ends with a list of resources for further study. Nearly every chapter this list includes the appropriate chapter from popular evangelical systematic theologies (e.g. Erickson, Grudem & Horton) providing one ample opportunity to dig deeper into any of doctrines discussed.
Overall I would recommend this book to anyone wishing to better understand the doctrines of the Christian faith without having to commit to the thousand plus pages most such works cover but still wanting to get out of the shallow end. This book could also be a good primer or refresher if you need to read or review one of the common systematic theology texts. Finally, it would make a good text for an adult class in a church context as it would provide people with an excellent foundation.
*I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
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